No.4: Turning Right Pt:1
Okay pop pickers, this series analyses the ‘Top 10’ test failures, giving you some tips on teaching to help pupils avoid them in the future
This is the first of a two-part article considering right turns – number four on the top ten reasons for failure list. The examiners’ guidance notes for junctions states: “The examiner should observe whether the candidate has the vehicle under proper control and in the appropriate gear, takes account of the type of junction, road signs and following traffic, gives any necessary and appropriate signals in good time, and keeps the vehicle correctly positioned throughout. The examiner should also note whether the candidate takes adequate and effective observation before entering the intersection, and that they do so with due regard for other road users.”
This information applies to all junctions – however, it’s almost guaranteed that examiners will be particularly vigilant at right turns, simply because they are personally more vulnerable – especially when turning across the path of other traffic.
The examiner will be watching to ensure that the candidate approaches all junctions with the vehicle under proper control, takes due account of the type of junction and any warning signs, uses the mirrors, gives the appropriate signals in good time, takes up the correct road position before turning, takes effective observation before emerging and adopts the proper position on the road after turning. Special attention is paid at junctions with poor visibility. In the DVSA explanation of the DL25 it says: “The examiner would have looked for correct use of the Mirror-Signal-Manoeuvre MSM procedure. The examiner was also looking for correct positioning and approach speed at junctions and roundabouts. This is because these skills are essential for dealing with the hazards safely. Turning right across busy roads/dual carriageways is particularly dangerous. To drive safely and pass your test you must be confident that you can judge the speed and distance of oncoming traffic safely. You also need to look out for other road users emerging and turning at junctions and be ready to alter your course or stop. Be extra watchful in poor light or bad weather conditions for the more vulnerable road user, such as cyclists and motorcyclists.” The examiners’ guidance and learners’ explanation gives an idea of what needs to be taught at junctions generally. But are instructors giving their learners sufficient right-turn practice?
Are test candidates prepared for right turns? This might seem like a silly question in an article aimed at driving instructors. However, you might be surprised to hear that I have encountered many instructors over the years who unwittingly present ‘under-prepared’ candidates for test where right turns are concerned. I’m not accusing instructors of acting deliberately, but rather of falling into a trap that can ensnare even the best if they are not consciously aware of it. One of my most often repeated mantras in industry articles over the years is “get the route right”. More often than not I’m talking about making sure that routes are not too busy for the learner’s ability, and should be tightly focused on the subject in hand rather than ‘general’ in nature. But today my advice addresses something that you might not be aware of, especially on dark, wet winter evenings: Do you deliver ‘The eight o’clock lesson’?
‘The eight o’clock lesson’ is a term I use to describe a lesson where an instructor, weary at the end of a long day’s work, presents the learner with a quiet, unchallenging, long left-hand route. As a one-off lesson this is not a major problem, but if it happens with the same learner week after week you can soon end up with a very confident learner who feels that he/she is test-ready but where the reality is that they still have a lot to learn (particularly about challenging right turns). The ‘left-hand route’, however, is not only a problem on late evening lessons. It can creep into your whole syllabus if you are not careful. By ‘left-hand route’ I mean a route which consists predominantly of left turns. Where there are right turns they often don’t sufficiently challenge the learner or reflect typical day-to-day driving or test route conditions. I first discovered this in my own teaching around 35 years ago when I started to regularly sit in on my pupils’ driving tests… I noticed that the test routes tended to leave the test centre and then drive around the town in a clockwise direction with more right turns than left turns. This might not be true of all test routes, but my guess is that even the ‘gentlest’ routes have a 50/50 ratio. When I started to pay more attention to my own routes I discovered that, for about 90% of my lessons, I was taking my learners anti-clockwise around the town – more left turns than right turns. This was a totally unconscious decision and something that I just hadn’t considered before.
Time 4 Change
Your left/right route choice will be influenced by lots of factors, these include:
● The time of day
● Your mental/physical state
● The learner’s mental/physical state
● Access to suitable roads within the allotted lesson time
● The learner’s confidence
A good starting point for eliminating right-turn test fails might be to audit your general route planning:
● Could you include more right turns?
● Do you get a good balance between ‘easy’ and ‘challenging’ right turns?
● Do you predominantly use clockwise or anti-clockwise routes?